David Cameron is playing a self-inflicted bad hand well

David Cameron is playing a self-inflicted bad hand well


AFTER months of vague talk about “renegotiating” Britain’s EU membership and a flurry of visits to European capitals by the prime minister and his lieutenants, the moment had come. The prime minister would set out the terms of the deal he hopes to secure in Brussels next month as a letter describing them winged its way to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council. In the event, his speech at Chatham House this morning revealed very little not already known. Mr Cameron wants to formalise the EU as a multi-currency union (protecting non-euro countries like Britain), terminate its symbolic commitment to ever-closer union, make it more competitive and require new migrants to spend four years contributing to the Exchequer before they have a right to draw benefits.

At the heart of the speech was a paradox consequent to political choices made by the prime minister almost three years ago, as he announced at Bloomberg’s London headquarters that he would reshape Britain’s membership of the EU and put the result to a referendum by 2017. Mr Cameron and his advisers believed—still believe—that this was essential to meeting British voters (particularly the 150 or so of them who sit on the Conservative Party benches and really dislike the EU) half-way: conceding that the union is deeply flawed by making a prime ministerial endorsement for the In campaign contingent on change.

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